Whether it was an accidental occurrence or something you planned on by breeding your dog, assisting a mama canine through her pregnancy can be a fascinating moment that's both an honor and pleasure to witness. A pregnancy with no hitches is, of course, the ideal situation for you, your dog, and her future puppies, although sometimes, snags can be hit.
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An overdue pregnancy doesn't always have to indicate trouble, but it should always be something that you keep an eye on to ensure the health of everyone involved. If you're wondering if your dog may be overdue, you'll want to pinpoint the date of conception to the best of your ability and keep an eye on your four-legged friend in case a late delivery may indicate a more serious problem.
Signs your dog is overdue
The first sign that your dog is overdue is if her gestation period starts lagging past the 65-ish day mark, but if your dog hasn't yet gone into labor by that exact date you shouldn't panic, although you'll definitely want to keep an eye on her. The gestation period for dogs is generally anywhere from 57- to 65-days long from start to finish, with the average canine pregnancy lasting 63 days, explains VCA Hospitals.
It's generally not recommended to induce labor using medical remedies at home, although you can try to encourage an overdue birth by taking your dog on short, slow walks, massaging her stomach and, of course, offering her a private, comfortable place to birth. Some dogs are known to carry for around 70 days, but if she hasn't gone into labor by then you'll want to contact your veterinarian, who will be able to determine if a C-section is needed.
Dog pregnancy calendar
If your dog accidentally became pregnant, it will obviously be harder to pinpoint her due date as accurately as a dog who was bred on purpose, but you can narrow down the window of time by counting from her last heat cycle or from when she was in contact with an unneutered male during that time.
If your dog came to you while she was already pregnant through the miracle of adoption, you can still get an idea of where she's at in her gestation period with a physical exam and ultrasound from a veterinarian. Ultrasounds can detect pregnancies around the 21 day mark, but are the most reliable on or after day 28.
Generally, most dogs won't display much change until about six weeks after she's mated, although you may notice that one of the first signs of pregnancy in dogs is discharge, which is spotted around 30 days. Kern Road Veterinary Clinic, in Fowlerville, Michigan, states that some dogs will have decreased appetite for a little over one week in the early stages of pregnancy as well.
In the last three weeks of her term, her ever-growing belly will make eating large meals harder, so she should be offered smaller meals more often. A couple of weeks before she's expected to deliver, many people prepare a whelping area for their dogs to comfortably birth in, and about a day or two before the puppies are due, female dogs often become restless and begin nesting.
Signs of labor
After those anxious and anticipatory couple of days before she's about to give birth, you'll begin to notice the first signs a dog is going into labor soon. The first six to 12 hours are known as stage one of labor, and in that stage your dog's time will mostly be spent having contractions, panting, pacing or just being generally fidgety. A healthy dog will also notice a drop in her temperature: in a pregnant dog, a temperature of 99, or under 100-degrees Fahrenheit is average.
After that first stage of labor, your dog will enter stage two, which is when dogs deliver their puppies. During this stage, many dogs will begin giving birth for the next two to four hours, with puppies born about every 10 to 30 minutes, although stage two can last for up to 24 hours in some dogs.
It's important to know how many puppies your dog is expected to deliver so that you can keep count and contact a professional if you see that one or more aren't being delivered after an hour or two. After all of her puppies have passed, she will pass her placentas in stage three, usually while cleaning her newborn pups and beginning the first stages of maternal bonding.
When to be concerned
Usually, if a dog reaches the 70- or 72-day mark, it's time to seek a medical professional for their opinion about what to do. A dog who isn't delivering puppies may just be late with no real cause for concern, but sometimes a delayed labor can indicate trouble. Some common reasons why a dog hasn't delivered include stillborn or nearly dead puppies or maternal distress. Difficulty birthing is known as dystocia and is usually treated with either a calcium or oxytocin injection, or delivery by C-section.
Additionally, a prolonged labor can indicate trouble, whether your dog was overdue for delivery or not, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual. If your dog has been having contractions for 30 minutes without birthing a puppy, or, if your dog is in labor but it's taking more than two hours for a puppy to pass, contact your veterinarian immediately. The same thing applies if your dog hasn't passed all of the placentas for 12 hours after birth — there should be one for each puppy.
The stages of labor should not take much longer than their average anticipated window, so if your dog has been in the first stage for over 24 hours, or the second stage for 12 to 24 hours, contact a medical professional immediately in case of a birth canal blockage.
Healthy birthing tips
Not every birth is guaranteed to go off without a hitch, but there are a few measures you can take during your dog's gestation period to give her and her puppies the best shot at an easy delivery. According to the American Kennel Club, nutrition is essential, so ensuring that your dog is eating high-quality food is the best place to start, while also taking care to increase her feedings as the weeks progress.
Regular visits to the vet can help make sure that all is going according to plan and may be able to prevent any illnesses your dog may be facing during her pregnancy. Finally, creating a clean, safe place for your dog to deliver when the time comes will help manage her stress levels, which is an important part of a healthy delivery — a large box for small dogs, or a kiddie pool for large dogs lined with newspaper and towels make great birthing rooms when kept in a low-traffic area of the home.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.